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Extreme Weather Impacts Ambulance Call-Outs

More call-outs seen during heat wave; slower response time noted in extreme cold

MONDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Extreme weather, either hot or cold, significantly affects the number of ambulance call-outs and response times, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

To examine the impact of cold weather on ambulance call-outs and response times, John Edward Thornes, Ph.D., from the Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom, and colleagues compared daily air temperature data with ambulance call-out data over a five-year period (2007 to 2011) in Birmingham.

The researchers found that there was a significant correlation between extreme weather and increased ambulance call-out and response times, with hot and cold weather negatively affecting response times. The number of ambulance call-outs increased by up to one-third during the heat wave of August 2003. In the winter of 2010, the coldest December recorded in more than 100 years, the response rate dropped below 50 percent, with a mean response time of 15 minutes during three consecutive days (Dec. 18 to 20, 2010). There was a reduction of 1.3 percent in performance for every decrease of air temperature by 1 degree Celsius.

"Improved weather forecasting and the take up of adaptation measures, such as the use of winter tires, are suggested for consideration as management tools to improve ambulance response resilience during extreme weather," write the authors.

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